Four years ago, I read an article online about a grassroots elephant sanctuary south of Chiang Mai started by an Australian expat after spending a few days on holiday in Thailand. Her name is Emily McWilliams and she has been living in Chiang Mai province ever since. In the article, it also mentioned the sanctuary has also organized an educational program for the local village children around the sanctuary. The families in this village depends on their farm for their income and they also highly depend on their children to help with their livelihood. Most of these children are not able to attend school because of this. So the sanctuary would organize and sponsor classes for local village children to continue their education further. This was what motivated me to check their website and write them sending a care package to support their educational program. I have been sending them care packages in the last four years. The elephant sanctuary I discovered four years ago is called Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary or BEES.
For the my birthday this year, I have decided to visit Thailand and visit Chiang Mai province and the elephant sanctuary. Plus, I have never been to Thailand before. To reach the sanctuary, it is about three hour drive southwest of the city of Chiang Mai through paved and rough, rocky dirt mountain roads. Visiting the sanctuary and the elephants was the first for me. The closest I have been with an elephant was visiting a zoo when I was a child. The elephant was in a enclosure viewed by the visiting public for their personal amusement. BEES is a sanctuary for older elephant rescued from physical and mental abuse from their previous owners and occupation. BEES currently has three female elephants in their sanctuary – Mae Kam is 57 years old and the first to be rescued by the sanctuary; Thong Dee is in her 70’s and has been in the sanctuary for 2.5 years; and finally Mae Mor who is in her 70’s and the recent rescue a day before my visit. During my visit, Mae Kam and Thong Dee was nowhere to be seen because they were roaming freely around the property located in the mountains outside the town of Mae Chaem. The only elephant in the sanctuary at the time of my visit was Mae Mor who was obviously malnourished with several abscesses on her skin. I had the privilege to meet Mae Mor and help Emily and their live-in sanctuary veterinary nurse – Diane feed her, bathe her and treat her abscess. I was also able to met Burm later that afternoon. I’m not used to being around animals very much but it was quite interesting helping the sanctuary perform their daily tasks. Mae Mor at the time was quite unsure of her surroundings and the people around her which is why at first she was not very receptive. But after her feeding and bathing, she learned to relax and allowed us to treat her wounds.
This sanctuary was created to work for the elephants and not with them. They do not force the elephants into a regimen but instead working for them in their own time. This sanctuary is not for tourists. This place is the rehabilitation of the elephants’ health and well-being, physically and mentally. The sanctuary also accepts and cares for abandoned dogs (and they have dozens of them) and cats.
Part of the program of the elephant sanctuary is the education of locals about how to properly treat and care for elephants and other animals humanely as much as possible. But all these required a lot of work, which the sanctuary could use a lot of help with. If you would like to help the sanctuary, here is a short list of how you can help.
What The Need:
They need funds – caring for these elephants is a very important jobs. Aside from food they also need medicine and other supplies to keep them in good health. Every little bit of donations helps. You can visit their website to find out how you can contribute.
They need volunteers – during my visit to the sanctuary, they have three young ladies in their 20’s volunteering. They accept and welcome volunteers from all over the stay at the sanctuary for at least three days but preferably longer. There offer accommodations to volunteer at the sanctuary but it very limited. So be sure to sign up as soon as you can.
They need teachers – the ongoing educational program need teachers especially those who can speak and teach English to the local children of the village. The school year in Thailand starts in late May/early June and ends in mid-March.
They need supplies for their educational program – Most of the local village children come from low-income families, some of which could not afford to get school supplies for their children. Basic school supplies such as pencils, pens, sharpeners, notebooks, scissors, rulers, chalk, crayons and the like in addition to books are greatly appreciated by the local children.
Emily told me that of all the sponsors they have, I was the only one who visited them. This grassroots elephant sanctuary were very welcoming to everyone who wanted to volunteer and donate to their causes. The elephant Mae Mor was a treat to visit. My only regret was I did not get to meet the other two elephants, Mar Kam and Thong Dee. I was also able to visit the children under the sanctuary’s educational program. They were very shy but very welcoming. The children in the program are between 7 to 17 and they were good kids. I hope with your help they can continue their education, and the care for the animals in the sanctuary.
For more information about Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES) and how to donate, visit their website at http://www.bees-elesanctuary.org/